NEW CUMBERLAND, W.Va. — Two weeks from today, Oak Glen’s football program will be preparing for its first playoff game since 2011.
Last Saturday, the Golden Bears won for the ninth time in as many tries this season, scoring 40 second-quarter points to race past Lincoln County, 59-8. In the process, No. 7 Oak Glen clinched its first Ohio Valley Athletic Conference championship since 1965 and moved to within one win of an unbeaten regular season.
“It’s been a dogfight day in and day out in that conference, so to get that for our program is a great thing,” Golden Bears’ head coach Ted Arneault said. “We feel really proud of that, but also to have a chance at the playoffs. We have to take care of business against Grafton next week and secure that opportunity.”
Seven of Oak Glen’s nine wins this season have been by at least 20 points, including a season-opening 34-14 victory over 2018 Class AA semifinalist Weir that served notice the Golden Bears could be for real.
Five of Oak Glen’s wins this season have come against Ohio schools, including the Golden Bears’ only two tough tests to date — a 21-14 win at East Liverpool and a 26-21 triumph over Harrison Central.
Two of the team’s three wins against in-state competition are against winless foes in Philip Barbour and Lincoln County, while this week’s opponent — Grafton — has a 1-7 record.
“It seems a lot of the same people that said two years ago, ‘Well Oak Glen needs a different schedule, they need to add this team or drop this team, they need to adjust this,’ are the same people now criticizing the teams we play,” Arneault said. “The only thing I can say to that is our schedule is our schedule, we play the teams in front of us.
“Our objective is to handle every week one week at a time. You make the playoffs and they seed the table, so whatever seed you are, eventually you have to run into the big boys at some point.”
Questioning the Golden Bears’ schedule is one thing, but doubting a group that’s scored 34-plus points in seven games and held the opposition to 14 or fewer in every game but one is another.
Quarterback Nick Chaney, a 6-foot, 215-pound junior, is enjoying a standout season beind center. Chaney has 19 touchdown passes and only five interceptions, while completing 89-of-149 passes for 1,549 yards.
Fellow junior Hunter Patterson is the team’s top offensive weapon and is closing in on 1,000 yards rushing. Patterson has 990 yards and 14 touchdowns on only 84 carries, while also adding 609 receiving yards and six scores on 37 catches.
There are plenty of other weapons as well, with Gage Patterson hauluing in seven touchdown receptions to go with 454 receiving yards and senior captain Zach Taylor second on the team with 499 receiving yards to go with six TD catches.
“The defense can choose to take something away, but when they take something away from us we’re able to go to something else because we have the versatility to throw the ball and run the ball,” Arneault said. “We feel like we have playmakers all over the field.”
Bruising 230-pound fullback Paxton Shuman leads the Golden Bears with 113 carries and has 644 yards to go with 11 touchdowns, while running behind an offensive line that’s paved the way for the team’s 33 rushing scores.
“Teams have to game plan for different stuff and they never know what they’re going to get,” Taylor said. “That includes our line, because it starts with them.”
Taylor, a senior captain, has also noticed a big difference in the Golden Bears’ work ethic in 2019 as opposed to previous seasons.
“We’re willing to put in so much more this season,” Taylor said. “We’ve grown as a family and been able to build off that every game.”